I just finished my first book on Kindle and the experience hasn’t made me want to throw the electronic device in the bath. I’m still rather ambivalent about wanting to take it to bed, though. I know some purists wouldn’t touch this piece of capitalist evil; they’d rather starve themselves of books and go hungry for the rest of their lives.
I’m not that politically extreme, although I used to talk about how I thought anything other than the solidity of a book in your hands was just plain unsatisfying and vaguely traitorous to booksellers.
My moral climbdown came at Christmas when I was looking for something to buy the English Husband. I had an Amazon gift certificate lying around, and I thought I might as well use it for something useful. More importantly, I’d be buying something that he wasn’t actually paying for himself, since I haven’t had any money of my own for over a year. He’s a man, he likes gadgets, I reasoned. He’s a man, he’ll want to save money, I concluded.
You’d have thought I handed him a loaded grenade, wrapped innocently in Christmas paper, instead of a Kindle. ‘What’s this?’ he asked, shooting me a skeptical, confused look. ‘I thought you’d never buy One of These.’ Christmas makes people do desperate things, I thought.
Instead I said, ‘I changed my mind. I thought you might like it. I put some books on it for you.’ This was a lie: I couldn’t figure out how to get books loaded onto the Kindle and they were apparently floating around in a cloud somewhere. I won’t go into the tawdry details, but buying the Kindle with my father’s Amazon Prime account created a huge number of problems. For quite a while, the Kindle kept addressing my English husband ‘Manuel’.
‘I just don’t know if I want it,’ he said disdainfully. We’ve always been a bit too honest when the Christmas presents don’t make us spontaneously hum ‘Jingle Bells’.
The Kindle never got returned, but it sat – untouched and unloved – for the rest of the Christmas period. I later found out, over Skype, that the English Husband had used it ‘a few times’.
I decide to try reading The Hunger Games on the Kindle. I find holding the device is comfortable. Reading the type is no problem, either, and it’s all adjustable to your own taste. But I don’t like the fact that you can’t easily flip back to pages you might want to read again. In an old-fashioned book you always have a vague idea of where certain events occurred; with a Kindle it feels like you are lost in a Black Hole. It’s how an astronaut must feel when he first observes the infinity of space.
Occasionally, the damn thing doesn’t flip to the right page and I need to flip back and there can be a slight lag; it inexplicably skips about 10 pages another time, and I spend five minutes trying to find my place; and I really don’t like entering a code every time I want to pick up the book after I’ve put it down. Then it runs out of battery, just as I was getting addicted. I let out a groan. This definitely wouldn’t happen with a physical book. There are also passages that are highlighted, but I’m not sure why, so I ignore them.
I like the feeling of a book in your hands and the satisfaction you get when you see how much you have read. There is also the smell of books – old books have that slightly musty smell along the crease. It reminds me of time. I just don’t get this warmth from a Kindle, and I don’t spend time examining the cover. But if I was going on holiday I would probably want to take it along with me. And I suppose it could be useful if you want to read Fifty Shades of Grey and don’t want anyone else to know.
What does anyone else think? Any readers out there want to wade in with an opinion?
As a footnote, I liked The Hunger Games and wished I had thought of this plot myself. Suzanne Collins has hit a goldmine with the ultimate crossover novel. I’ve had to stop myself from reading the second book right away, I was that addicted. I’m a sucker for a love story interspersed with killing and violence. Not sure what that says about me.